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[sticky post] Notes to Self about Writing Life

1. Just be yourself. Don't schmooze, don't obssess, don't get weird, don't get all theater. It's served you well, being yourself all this time. Stick with it.

2. Just write. Keep at it steadily, keep at it carefully. Do it conscientiously, do it to the best of your ability.

3. See number one again, especially when you feel insecure about number 2.

4. Believe you have a story to tell. Then don't put it off. Tell it.

5. Accept that some people will like your work, some people will not like your work, and that's okay. You write because you have a story to tell. It's nice if someone will read your story, but if they don't, well, not everyone in the world or even the Western hemisphere is going to read your story. And that is okay.

6. Writing can change the world, but is not the most important job anyone will ever have on the planet. You are not telling deep truths about the universe. You are telling a story. Get over yourself.

7. See number one and number three again, just in case you need a reality check. Never believe your own press.

8. Keep doing something you enjoy that keeps you in touch with people and makes you feel that you are making a contribution to the world, because you can turn into a mushroom if you're writing only. A strange, weird, psychologically fungal mushroom, I might add. And then you might drink.

9. Do not pass judgment on the writing of others. Do not compare your writing to the writing of others. You can have opinions about things you read, but unless you are asked, you might want to keep them to yourself, especially where other writers are concerned. Play nice.

10. Expect others to play nice with you. Avoid pseudo intellectuals and non constructive critics. Hell, you don't need them. You have your worst critic, yourself, to contend with already.

11. The industry is not the measure of your success. Attention is not the measure of your success. Of course you want to send your work out, make smart marketing decisions, and try to share. The measure of your success is stories written and sent. You can't convince the world it wants your work, but you certainly can't do anything at all unless you're telling stories.

12. Realize that success in writing, like success in anything, is really more about persistance than anything else. Write, learn to market selectively and well, and then market selectively and well. There will be a learning curve. You will battle obscurity. You will make mistakes and get rejections. BUT eventually you'll have enough circulating and people will know who you are, and you'll learn the tricks, and your writing will line up with someone's taste, and more and more things will be accepted.

13. See 1, 3, and 7 again, especially in moments of personal angst.

14. See 2 and 4 again, especially in moments of procrastination.

15. See 4, 5, 9, and 11 again, especially in moments where you lack faith.

16. See 5, 9, and 10 to remind yourself of grace.

17. See 6, 7 and 10 to remind yourself that you're not curing cancer.

18. See 8 to maintain your balance.

19. See 12 when you feel like giving it up.

20. If you're not satisified anymore, if it's causing you consternation, cease. Walk away. Writing is important. A happy life is much more important than that. Anything must give you joy for you to continue it. Don't settle.



Well. The teacher life is just eating me up right now. I thought that things would get less hectic when I gave up the personnel management piece of my work, but instead, I have filled it with other things.

So...notable. My old laptop of six years died. I replaced it in the matter of a day, and the new one is working just as well. I've put a tangerine shell and an orange keypad cover on it, but otherwise it is remarkably the same. I lost about a day and a half of writing time updating the software.

I am among the athletically injured. Foot pain took me to the doctor, and because I have not been stretching, I have redeveloped my old friend plantar fasciiitis. No problemo. I switched to the exercise bike. Except I managed to destroy my right oblique muscles trying to climb around the cat in my plantar fasciitis brace on the couch. So now, I'm sort of taking today off, and seeing which one hurts less tomorrow. Hey, everything is better than yesterday, when I had major muscle conspiracy!

I will attempt to make a report on weight next week. The bottom line is that I'm still spinning around the same pound. That said, I might be going down a little. My new high isn't as high as my old high. More to come.

Gotta, gotta, gotta check some papers. So, see you laters.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

Viable Paradise XIII: Five Years Later


For those of you not aware, this is Viable Paradise week. The 18th class of Viable Paradise is on Martha's Vineyard RIGHT NOW, joining our alumni. I can only hope that their experiences is as good as ours was.

It occurred to me that it might be good for people to see how graduates of the workshop fare. Heck, I'm curious. And I'm an academic, so I do things like this. Plus, I am in the lucky position to have kept in touch with my VP classmates for the most part. And it's our 5th anniversary, so that's a nice year number.

I sent out a call for some updates. Where are you now? I asked. How's the writing going? How's life going? How did you feel after VP?

And I received a lot of responses. I think I'm on tap to receive just a few more, because even though I'm posting this today, right now, the official deadline is today, so I could get some more by tonight.

Without further adieu, then, here are responses I've received. I've listed the names just in case you're looking for anyone in particular, and I'll update if/when I get more. This is a LONG document, so after the names, I'm cutting. Goooooo Fightin' Thirteen! And happy anniversary to the rest of our fellow workshoppers as well.

They're Here!

Bo Balder
Steve Buchheit
Chris Cornell
Sean Craven
Marion Engelke
Chia Evers
Robyn Hamilton
Kat Hankinson
L.K. Herndon
Matt Hughes
E.F. Kelly
Leah Miller
Darice Moore
Lisa Nohealani Morton
Julia Rios
Catherine Schaff-Stump
Ferrett Steinmetz
Miranda Suri

Stay Tuned

Brent Bowen
George Galuschak
Irina Ivanova
Drew Morby
Brandi Tarvin
Christian Walter

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

jacketcath's this. Just to make it a little more real.

I will post the cover when that happens.


Meanwhile, tomorrow, something different and special.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

Mountains of Green


Popping in for a brief announcement.

My story Mountains of Green will be appearing in The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk which is schedule for publication in July of next year.

For those keeping score, this is my first pro sale. That is a happy thing for me.

So, posting less here and writing more does seem to have dividends of a sort.

At any rate, more as I have it available.


Meanwhile, I hope you all have a good weekend. I suspect mine will be spent checking papers since I have been in daydream land most of the day. :P

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.


I'm over at Josh Vogt's again, with a Write Strong post on nutrition: You are What You Eat.

Thanks, Josh, for letting me spout off. Now, I should go find some celery for lunch or something...

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

A Sliver Away, I Suspect


There's a lot of talk about breaking into writing, and then there's some talk about moving into publishing and agenting problems, but I find that I can reflect at this point about not only the cuspy part of writing, as I've come to consider where I've been, but also this new place I've wandered into.

There have been a couple of very PRESTIGIOUS near misses lately. Oh, I mostly get near misses these days. We liked your story, but (fill in reason) here. It is the unusual magazine that sends me a form. No, just recently, I have had a couple of what I would have thought of as Big Break magazines take me to a higher round, and then cut me lose.

Which I don't mind, because it's what I expect. My friend Lisa has this don't expect anything so when something good comes, it's a reason to celebrate approach to life, and while I find that's no way to live, I'm pretty certain it's a good way to survive becoming a writer. So, what does that mean?

I don't know what that means. I wrote a post a while back on not giving a damn about anything but writing stories and sending them out, doing what you can control. However, from an artistic point of view, there is something happening here.

First of all, clearly the quality of my writing is getting noticed more and more. We all like that, here on planet Iowa. Secondly, I'm finding that it is true, that the better you get at writing, the harder writing becomes for you.

Take for example, my most recent rejection: the story begins too late and ends too soon. I can see it. I can see it, but what I can't pinpoint yet is this: where is the right place to begin and end? Because this thing could stretch like a light wool sweater. Too much and it's ruined the sweater. Too little, and well, this happens. The problem is harder to fix now. This one loves the characters, the dialogue, the relationship. The point is that beginning and ending. Where should I crop the snapshot?

Or, I received a beautiful third round list of suggestions for a rewrite. They love all the things I do well in the story. Great characters and relationships? Check. Dialogue? Check. Setting and mood? Check. Plot and rationale for what happens? Not so much. And mind you, I can see it. I killed myself on the first rewrite, but I played to my strengths, and magnified the beauty of the things in writing I could do, but still had trouble with the fundamental things I often have trouble with.

How do I move toward now working on the things that do not come easily? Or how do I work with increasingly demanding editors and readers? Because I do want to pursue excellence in my writing, and I can see what is being suggested.

I'm working on a novel right now. Well, almost right now, as in back at it tomorrow morning. AND I begin to see these things in my novel, even without other readers. But I cannot, must not, self-edit at this point. However, the point is this: improving my writing is becoming more demanding, because I know more than I did, and I expect more of myself.

Which might explain those prestigious near misses. While I will always improve my writing, I am mastering those things I do well naturally, and have kicked those things up to a new level. It's like I tell my students about their papers: if this one thing is that good, then I want the other parts of your paper to be that good. So, these careful readers are telling me that they want my plot to be as good as my language, my complicated relationships, my dialogue, my well-rendered characters, my beautiful scenery. Because these things are good, they notice the flaw more.

That's good news. It means I have to finally make myself master the Achilles Heel of plotting that I've just tried to gloss over. That's not bad news, but that's the challenge. Such a challenge.

However, it's my damned writing. I will push harder and see where I can get.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

Guest Post over at Josh Vogt’s


Josh Vogt has been running a series of articles about writers and fitness over at his blog, and he's posted my article today.

So, please feel free to go on over there and read the rest of "Playing Your Way to Fitness--Wii Do It!"


As a kid, I hated PE. I hated the idea of running, jumping jacks, and dodge ball. In fact, if it had anything to do with physical exercise, I could be counted on to dislike it and be bad at it.

Funny how some things could distract me, though. I loved dancing. I would dance, and still will dance for three or four hours whenever there was an extended event. Dance lessons never seemed like a chore or workout. Key to my fitness pursuit, it seemed, was something that made me feel like I wasn’t in PE class.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

Weighing In: Week 46


In late October, I will have been working on weight loss for about a year.

Here's the salient data at this point

Weight Watchers Beginning Weight: 224.8 pounds
(This is the highest weight I was ever at with WW, and now the weight they consider my starting weight, because I'm back at the center, rather than at work.)
Weight Watchers Current Weight: 205.6
Total Weight Watchers Lost: 19.2

Wii Weight Beginning: 223.8 pounds
Current Wii Weight: 203.7 pounds
Total Wii Weight Lost: 20.1 pounds

About the same. :) There are differences, of course, given times of day and wardrobe, for example.

Good stuff: Weight loss has not changed appreciably over the summer. This is also bad stuff, but it is not gaining anything back, so we will take it as a win.

Bad stuff: Still really inclined to eat things that are not good for me. However, the good part of this is that I am more willing to balance out an indulgence with exercise or cutting back the next day. We move in the right direction.

Really good stuff: Can climb stairs without being winded. Can dance for 3 hours straight. Walk a lot. Enjoy feeling more healthy. Hope this will spur me on to greater heights of healthy.

Wishes: That someone would make celery taste like chocolate, but still have no calories. :)

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

On the Planet of Active Writing


Hello all.

So, I've been creating fiction. Do you remember the trident of attack? I am following through. Here's what's happening for the next few months. If you are not inclined to look, I've hidden this under a cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

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